The Massachusetts Senate voted Tuesday to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $11 per hour by 2016. The raise will help over 600,000 workers, particularly women, who make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers nationwide.

“Hard working people working full time and being paid our minimum wage now are living in poverty,” Senator Dan Wolf told the Associated Press. “Raising the minimum wage is an important step to rebalancing our top-heavy economy.”

The Senate also voted to tie the minimum wage to inflation, to require it to always be at least 50 cents higher than the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), and to raise the minimum wage for tipped employees, like waiters, to half of the minimum for other workers.

The bill was approved by a 32-7 vote. It will now head to the House, which is unlikely to vote on it until next year, and then to Governor Deval Patrick, who has expressed support for increasing the state’s minimum wage. If it passes, Massachusetts will have the highest state minimum wage in the US. It will begin taking effect on July 1, 2014 when it will rise to $9, and then it will rise by one dollar each July until it reaches $11 in 2016.

California recently enacted a similar law raising the state’s minimum wage from $8 to $10.

Media Resources: National Women’s Law Center 10/4/13; Feminist Newswire 9/27/13, 10/17/13; Boston.com 11/19/13; MassLive.com 11/19/13

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